My guest today is Val Stasik, author of the romantic suspense, Incidental Daughter. In this interview, the author tells us about her inspiration for her latest novel, what it’s like being published for the first time and what kind of projects she has in the works, among other things. Enjoy the interview!

Thanks for being my guest on Blogger News today, Val!  Can we start off by having you tell us a little about yourself?

I lived in Pittsburgh until I was twenty and have lived in Maryland; Harpers Ferry; Harrisburg, PA; and Virginia. I’ve been an editorial assistant, a commercial lines insurance underwriter, a racetrack groom and mutuels clerk, and a teacher. I’ve also dabbled in theater. I took early retirement from teaching a few years ago and moved from Virginia to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’ve never looked back. In addition to Incidental Daughter, I’ve written a couple of film scripts and award-winning play scripts during this time. However, I’ve been writing since I was in the seventh grade.

Can you tell us about your new book, Incidental Daughter, and how you came up with the idea to write it?

Incidental Daughter is the story of publisher Liz Michaels, born Liz Migielski, who, through a series of incidents surrounding her ex-husband’s death, comes to terms with a past filled with abandonment. In doing so, she finds the family and the love of an honorable man that has eluded her for so long.

How did I come up with the idea? Growing up, I learned there were a few of us who might be termed WWII collateral damage—the offspring of women and innocent young men who went off to war. None of these women expected to become mothers; the stresses and uncertainties of war spurred them to compassion for the men who feared they would not return. Some men did not return, but others did. A few mothers, because of a feeling of betrayal or for whatever reason, chose to turn their backs on the men who in one night had drastically changed their lives.

Some of the children of these single mothers grew up to live normal lives while others faced challenges that either crippled them or honed them into very successful people. The years following WWII harbored secrecy; many of these children were told their fathers died in the war. When they grew old enough to see through the lie, they could still elicit very little information about their fathers. Such were the times.

In Incidental Daughter, I chose to tell the story of one child, Liz Michaels, who overcame her trials with the help of compassionate friends. I decided to explore what might happen if at the peak of her career, she loses a child and her marriage fails. Then I decided to throw in a few curves from the past that could ironically lead to the love and family that has always been out of reach. I’ve been asked if this story is autobiographical. No, it’s pure fiction, but many born into the same circumstances as Liz will see themselves in it and, perhaps, be inspired.

Did you come up with the title and then write the book or did you write the book, then came up with the title?

I wrote the book using the working title, The Boating Party, because of Liz’s interest in Mary Cassatt’s work, especially the painting of the same title. It represented family and security to her. After I wrote the book, my critique group thought it needed a better title. We brainstormed several titles, and I ran a contest to see which title was favored. Incidental Daughter received the greatest number of votes. Liz’s existence seemed to be incidental to so many people in her past.

Can you tell us a little about the characters in your book?

The protagonist, Liz Michaels, born Liz Migielski, is a successful editor and publisher in the company she owns with the Kernans in Pittsburgh. She’s in her mid-thirties, slender, blond, has arresting blue eyes, and has a space between her front teeth that figures in hinting at her relationship with the Arnessons. Her mother committed suicide when Liz was nineteen, changing her life drastically (see the book cover). Liz encounters her biological father and again experiences abandonment. The Kernans mentor her, opening doors of opportunity for her and providing the emotional anchor she needed. Her blue-blood ex-husband, Addison Tiffin Payne, is another disappointment added to the loss of her baby. Liz moves on, accepting the past and the loss of the love and family she has always desired. She is strong and talented, which qualities garnered her part ownership of the publishing company.

Addison Tiffin Payne (Addy) is a narcissistic, upper-class descendent of the first governor of Ohio. He is blond and well dressed, but his once-athletic build has become bloated. He has been a very successful ad executive who blew it all with his descent into alcoholism and is now unemployed. He hides his reduced circumstances from his mother, telling her that he’s working hard because Liz took so much in the divorce; she took nothing except her clothes and a friend’s painting. Addy pesters Liz for loans, the last plea for money so that he can open his own ad agency. He is a first-class manipulator whose snobbery escapes his mask.

Jim Shannon, tall with dark, curly hair and a grin that reveals his Irish heritage, is one of the detectives investigating the death of Addison Payne. He sometimes gives the impression of not picking up on things, but it’s a facade that hides a cleverness that has gained him fast promotion to detective. He is immediately attracted to Liz but remains reserved until the investigation is completed. He is related to the Arnessons, but the connection does not become immediately apparent to Liz. Shannon, too, has lost loved ones, his wife and child due to complications of childbirth. He has lived with his sister’s family since the loss of his wife. Family is important to him. He is experiencing burnout with the job and compensates by sharing some of his inheritance with a few victims of the crimes he investigates.

Gerald and Miriam Kernan are generous and compassionate. They met at the close of WWII. Gerald was involved in helping displaced refugees connect with family and friends. Miriam was a young Jewish girl who was the only survivor of her family. Despite the differences in their backgrounds and religions, they fell in love and married. Gerald is rather quiet but has a firmness that has served him well in business. He absolutely adores his wife and is protective of his children and Liz. Miriam, though petite, has a commanding presence. She is not only wise about business but also about people and their needs.

Eunice Payne is Addy’s widowed mother. She is a well-preserved woman, conscious of her appearance, who spends her time playing tennis at the country club and entertaining bigwigs. She has always made it clear that Liz was not good enough for her son. Her dislike turns into vindictiveness as she deteriorates into madness following Addy’s death.

Rose Santello is Shannon’s detective partner. She’s older and has a stocky build. She’s always egging Shannon on and is vocal about their differences regarding their cases. She seems to have a love-hate attitude towards Liz, refusing to see Liz’s resemblance to her dead Lesbian partner. However, she’s the kind of person you’d want for backup. She’s bold and brave in the toughest of circumstances. She eventually comes to terms with her attitude when she realizes Liz worked her way up to her position and has genuine feelings for Shannon.

Paddy Arnesson is Liz’s twenty-year-old half-brother who comes to her company as an intern under her mentorship. He doesn’t know who Liz is. He’s intelligent and an extremely talented writer.

Eileen Arnesson is the widowed mother of Paddy and is Shannon’s sister. She is the proverbial earth mother and values family and honesty. She has three daughters in addition to Paddy and is the family wise woman for the entire extended Shannon clan.

Del Busch is a large, balding, bully of a man who owns the working-class bar Addy frequents. He sees Addy’s snobbery and resents him for it.

Emily Miner is a careworn worker at Del’s bar. With stringy blond hair, teeth too big for her mouth, watery eyes, and an annoying squeaky voice, she basks in the attention Addy gives her, oblivious to his manipulation.

Virgil Earp, a regular at the bar, is a skinny maintenance worker at one of the police precincts who picks up a little cash with what he calls “happy finds.” Despite his sticky fingers, he has a soft spot for Emily.

There are other characters in this novel, but these are the main players.

What’s it like being published for the first time?

It’s like holding your baby for the first time and wondering at the beautiful life you’ve created.

Aside from writing, what other talents do you have?

I can act and I’ve directed plays. And one of these days, when I have some spare time (ha!), I’m going to pull out the paints I bought last year and start painting again. I was also a pretty good teacher. I’m also a good friend if you can consider that a talent.

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

Oh, yes! Most people would say I’m shooting myself in the foot with my next project and that I should continue to build my platform by writing in the same genre. However, true to my habit of rebelling against expectations, my next novel will be a young adult science fiction novel, working title Catching Air. Young Chet Hain, saddled with phobias because of a car accident that took the lives of his older brother and later his father when they were driving him to a skateboarding contest, must, seven years later, deal with the mystery of who is watching his home. His discovery of the mystery watcher leads him into a world where appearances are not what they seem, where a powerful and dangerous conspiracy continually strives to derail research and development into free energy. There will likely be a sequel to this book.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Visit me at http://www.valeriestasik.com

 

 

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